HERO Awards Winter 2012
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When Abbey was born, my prayer for a little girl was answered. But having spent the ninth month of my pregnancy in the sorrow of a divorce, I found myself angry at God that I was a single mother of two small children. I plunged into despair, financially ruined and out of hope. When Abbey was 6 months old, I decided to end my life.
To God’s praise, I was unsuccessful. I spent nearly three weeks in a coma. And yet, it was here God began His real work, unfolding a perfect plan.
When Abbey was young, we discovered she had a speech impairment. The only way she could communicate was through song. When she made up songs, her unclear speech became understandable. It began her life’s passion for music.
Three years ago, Abbey was invited to church by a friend. She came home bustling with excitement that she had accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior. She begged us to take her again. We did, and over the course of the next year, our entire family accepted Jesus, including my second husband, who by God’s strength, overcame alcoholism. Today the whole family ministers for God, and He has given Abbey many opportunities to serve Him with her music.
It doesn’t mean our journey to SHINE has been free of difficulty. When you add up a husband’s open heart surgery and disability, piles of medical bills, a single income, and occasional reliance on food banks, you believe something like AMTC is quite simply, impossible. In fact, we told Abbey this several times. But each time she responded, “Mom, God told me I’m going to SHINE this January. I don’t know why, but I KNOW I am supposed to be there. Maybe it’s not to sing; maybe it is just to share God with others.”
I tried to have her faith, but three days before the dress rehearsal, I decided to pull her. The financial pressure was too overwhelming. I typed an email to AMTC to explain, but the exact moment before I hit ‘send’, my phone rang. God provided the money we needed for our plane tickets and showcases. Impossible for us—POSSIBLE with God.
Abbey reminds me every day that we are right where God wants us. Many years ago I thought I couldn’t be a good mother and tried to end my life. I never imagined God would use Abbey to teach me faith, perseverance and the truth of Jeremiah 29:11. We don’t know what is going to happen at SHINE, we just know that we are right where God wants us!
Shortly after beginning grade school, our son Jeremy was diagnosed with learning and social disabilities. We soon discovered it was autism. We were surprised by the diagnosis, as Jeremy was capable of normal communication in familiar situations, but autism has many degrees of severity. It turns out, those with Jeremy’s type of autism can find themselves utterly lost when any change to a known routine is introduced.
So we approached the Summer of 2011 with a good amount of caution, knowing the tremendous changes that were in store when Jeremy decided he wanted to pursue AMTC and SHINE. He auditioned in early July at the Baltimore search, and was selected as a performer. Little did we know in the short amount of time since that audition, how much amazing progress Jeremy would make with respect to his social involvement.
Bolstered by his audition, days later Jeremy attended a multi-week summer camp for kids and teens with challenges similar to his. He returned home with a crop of truly close friends and began using social media for the first time to stay in touch with them.
Over the course of the BRIDGE program Jeremy learned to take the constructive feedback on his performances in the manner it was intended, and instead of only safely doing the minimum number of run-throughs, he sought every opportunity to perform and improve. He also joined his school’s Business Marketing club and entered competitions that required him to persuade judges and peers via oral presentations. At 16, Jeremy’s self-confidence has skyrocketed in the past six months, and the recent changes have been nothing short of miraculous. Jeremy has always been a deeply compassionate and morally just person, lately he’s been able to share that with the world.
18-year-old Phillip Skoblick loves to entertain people with his humor, his jokes and funny voices. A newly discovered singing voice has also given him confidence to expand his talent and influence. But what might seem like a natural inclination toward public performance has not come easily for Philip. Growing up, he endured endless bullying and taunting from peers. Recently he also found his family wrestling with terminal illness.
In 10th grade, Phillip’s dad picked him up from school, and told him gravely that his mother had brain cancer and would not live much longer. Phillip was devastated. The day before, she was simply on her way to becoming a certified Special Education teacher. Today, she had only months left to live. It was doubly ironic given his father’s severe heart condition. No one suspected cancer.
His mother survived for two more years, but during that time, Phillip struggled to grow in grace and have peace with the inevitable. He even endured his mother’s discouragements that he was not good enough, and didn’t try hard enough. Phillip knew it wasn’t his mother talking. Anyone familiar with brain cancer knows the painful challenges of this horrible disease. Phillip and his dad did everything they could to make her as comfortable as possible.
Shortly after his mother’s passing, Phillip discovered just how the experience had changed his resolve. The bullying he was accustomed to took on a new ugliness when his peers began making fun of how his mother died. It took everything for Phillip to restrain himself, but a new courage and faith in God’s providence took over. Phillip knew God was in control.
Phillip is here today because of his renewed spirit, faithful heart and a passion to right wrongs—especially when it comes to the growing problem of bullying.
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